Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Summer holidays day out: South Bank London

We started Day One of the summer holidays this Monday with a great day on London's South Bank.

In theory, the whole of this day out need only have cost us £12.80 - that's the current train fare for an adult and two children from Eltham (in SE London) to Waterloo East on a mid-morning weekday.  After that, there's plenty of free pleasures to be had.

For example, a 'beach' has been installed along the railings overlooking the Thames, outside the Royal Festival Hall. Children can happily play in the sand while the adults relax on the benches.

View of 'the beach' from the RFH balcony. There are posters strapped to the railings at intervals reading "wish you were here". Further along there are brightly-painted beach huts, some used as impromptu mini-galleries.
After the sand, the children changed into their swimming costumes and had great fun in the 'Appearing Rooms' on the RFH balcony.

Apparently, "Danish artist Jeppe Hein's aquatic sculpture Appearing Rooms was originally commissioned for the garden of the Villa Manin, Italy. Inspired by the Baroque villa, he designed an ornamental fountain that combines sculpture, architecture, and technology and playfully invites visitors to interact with the changing spaces created by rising and falling walls of water."

As usual, there was plenty of entertainment along the South Bank walkway. The kids always love the performing acts - the gold and silver-sprayed mime artists, the magicians and the curious cat/dog in a box.  There's also the children's playground alongside the old County Hall building (where I once worked for several years on the 2nd floor for the the Inner London Education Authority, before it was abolished in 1990), and the traditional carousel (£2 a ride).

As I mentioned, you could just get away with paying your travels costs for the day but I was not an organised mummy that day and didn't pack, and carry around, a packed lunch for us. There are plenty of eating places here, though often busy and a bit pricey. There was a queue as usual outside the favoured Giraffe restaurant (outside the the ground floor of the RFH), and so we nipped to behind the National Theatre where there is a good Pizza Express and walked straight in to a table. Cost-wise, there was also the ice-creams (an eye-watering £3 each), small water bottles (£1.79!) and candy floss (£2 each).

We also spent some time around Gabriel's Wharf, further up the South Bank, where the kids still enjoyed playing on the wooden rocking sculptures (those sculptures have been there for years now). By mid-afternoon it was a step too far to expect enthusiasm from the kids for a session at the Tate Modern - another time.

On the walk back, I spotted this mocked-up Indian 'Chowpatty beach' cafe called 'Dishoom' (which is kinda equivalent to the 'pow' sound used in comics when batman punches a villain). Chowpatty beach is a famous hanging-out area in Mumbai, India.

So a great day out in London, and good start to the summer holidays. Anyone have any other suggestions for days out with children?


Marion said...

I used to take my kids up to Charing Cross station then turn left into Whitehall. Since both of mine are boys, they loved to see the guards on horseback, wearing their gleaming breast-plates. We'd stroll through to Horseguards parade and into St. James' Park where we'd feed the birds and ducks on the lake. They even have pelicans there! There's also a swing park. If you time it right (11am I think), you'll catch the troop of soldiers, on horseback, on their way to Buckingham Palace to change the guards. In those days, we'd come back via the Mall and Trafalgar square where the boys would feed the pigeons. I believe the square is pigeonless now. As they got older, they liked to go into the Portrait Gallery, opposite St.Martins in the Field, to see how many people they could recognise. Then back to the station.
Ahhh. Those were the days!

Raven said...

Thanks Marion - sounds good. The 9yr old is finding every suggestion 'boring' at the moment (except the purchase of a new DSI game...)